Third-episode verdict: Smith


I’m starting to worry. Quite a number of the shows that had promise in their pilot episodes are starting to flounder by episode three. We’ve already had the wobbling of Men in Trees, Justice lost a little of its sheen before the hiatus. Now Smith, the TV-watcher’s Heat, is starting to seem a little dull.

Like Heat, it would be wrong to think of Smith as an action story about bank robbers. Instead, it’s a character study that’s interspersed with moments of action. The trouble is, while Heat seemed a little slow moving in the cinema, imagine it stretched out over an entire season – 22-24 hours.

Three episodes in, the FBI is slowing tracking down Amy Smart’s character, but has no idea where she is or who the other members of her gang are. ‘Smith’ is putting together all the pieces of his plan for his next job, but it’s clear he’s going to need a load more pieces before it all comes together.

We also have a series of sub-plots to slow the action down even more. So far, Smith has been remarkably neutral and dispassionate about its ‘heroes’: we’re not supposed to love them or root for them, we’re just supposed to observe them in their natural habit. But if it does have a message, it’s that everything had its consequences. Seemingly random actions in the pilot episode are still having pay-offs and will continue to do so for some time.

Smith’s relationship with his wife is proving interesting, although she isn’t proving as interesting as she was in the pilot. Her plot now seems to revolve around her suspicions that Smith is a bank robber; the trouble is, she isn’t being very subtle about her investigations.

So he knows she suspects. But he’s giving off subtle “I know you know” warnings. So she knows he knows she knows. Yet neither is willing to come clean with the other.

The high point of the show is actually Jonny Lee Miller, surprisingly enough. He manages to inject humour and character into a show where the characters often become plot points rather than people according to the needs of the scripts.

So on balance, I’d recommend Smith if you’re willing to get ready for the long haul and like intelligent but slow-moving crime dramas – it’s certainly smarter than all of this year’s Hollywood crime movies put together. You can see that by season’s end, if it makes it that far, all the pieces will come together for something explosive. But it’s going to take a whole lot of episodes and each individual part isn’t that great to watch. Stay clear if you’re not willing to do the time, but expect a decent pay-off if you do.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.